Early last summer the mayor of this small town east of Atlanta issued a decree: no more soccer in the town park.
In Clarkston, soccer means something different than in most places.
As many as half the residents are refugees from war-torn countries
around the world. Placed by resettlement agencies in a once mostly
white town, they receive 90 days of assistance from the government and
then are left to fend for themselves. Soccer is their game.
to many longtime residents, soccer is a sign of unwanted change, as
unfamiliar and threatening as the hijabs worn by the Muslim women in
town. Caught in the middle is a boys soccer
program called the Fugees, indeed
comprised of all refugees, from the most troubled corners ��� Afghanistan, Bosnia,
Burundi, Congo, Gambia, Iraq, Kosovo, Liberia, Somalia and Sudan. Some
have endured unimaginable hardship to get here: squalor in refugee
camps, separation from siblings and parents.
The Fugees, 9 to 17 years old, play on three
teams divided by age. Their story is about children with miserable
pasts trying to make good with strangers in a very different and
sometimes hostile place. But as a season with the youngest of the three
teams revealed, it is also a story about the challenges facing
resettled refugees in this country. More than 900,000 have been
admitted to the United States since 1993, and their presence seems to
bring out the best in some people and the worst in others.
Click here to read the whole story.